Raith’s Poor Recreation Run Goes On
Raith Rovers went down 1-0 against Alloa Athletic on a bitterly cold afternoon at Recreation Park thanks to a somewhat controversial goal scored by former Dunfermline frontman Andy Kirk. Winter woollies were very much the order of the day on an overcast afternoon in Clackmannanshire.
Rovers were looking for their first win at ‘the Recs’ since 2007, while in the home dugout, former Rovers cult hero, Paul Hartley celebrated his 100th game in charge of Alloa. Although, if the media speculation of the past week is anything to go by, Hartley may not be in the Alloa dugout for much longer – with his name being mentioned in the same sentence as the vacant job at Inverness.
Rovers made two changes to the 11 that started last week’s 2-0 defeat to Dundee at Dens Park, with Kevin McCann and Dougie Hill returning to the starting team. Laurie Ellis and Callum Booth, the latter suspended after his contentious red card last Saturday, were the unlucky two to make way.
The game got off to a bright start, with Rovers making most of the early running. In the first minute, a solid interchange of passing between Grant Anderson and Joe Cardle down the left wing eventually led to no end product – a theme which would scar the game for the majority of the 90 minutes.
The home side created their first chance of the afternoon in the second minute, Jonathan Tiffoney scampered down the line and picked a pass to Ryan McCord – only for the former Dundee United youngster to send his short high and wide over Ross Laidlaw’s bar.
The visitors started strongly in the first 15 minutes, creating most of the play but with the odd chance coming here and there from Paul Hartley’s men. Alloa’s grit, determination and doggedness showed why there are ripping up the pre-season prediction of the doubters who have them as relegation cannon fodder this campaign.
Alloa started to come into the game in around 17 minutes, but, in truth, it was a poor first half – one that never really got going, so much so that on 33 minutes came perhaps the most exciting moment of the afternoon’s proceedings to that point – with the jingle of an ice cream van being heard from Clackmannan Road outside the ground. Rovers were hoping it would be the home side’s back four that would melt under the momentum created prior to last week’s defeat at Dens.
The greatest relief to a reasonable crowd gathered inside Recreation Park was the sound of referee
Craig Thomson’s half-time whistle, signalling the end of what had been an otherwise uneventful first half – with chances few and far between, leading to one prominent Rovers fan in the away stand proclaiming that the game would either be a 4-4 classic or a rubbish 0-0 draw. Sadly, said Rovers fan would be wrong on both counts come full-time.
The first flashpoint of the second half, and in many senses the game, came 28 seconds after the restart when Alloa’s left back, Daryll Meggatt stuck an elbow into the face of Grant Anderson. Though there was no card on this occasion, there would be a different outcome a couple of minutes later.
The home side created the first chance of the second half three minutes in, with another former Dundee United trainee, Graeme Holmes cutting in off the left wing before firing an aimless cross comfortably over the bar.
Anderson and Meggatt then came together again, with the Rovers’ winger getting nailed in front of an understandably irate Rovers support. This time Meggatt was shown a yellow card and from the resulting free kick, Joe Cardle whipped a dangerous-looking ball into the box, with the home defence clearing the ball after a short bout of penalty box ping-pong at the railway end.
The now-familiar Rovers substitution took place on the hour, with Greig Spence replacing the workmanlike Gordon Smith. Spencey probably felt as if he was back in familiar surroundings having started his football career with Alloa as a 16-year-old.
The breakthrough came in 63 minutes, several Alloa players broke away from a Rovers set piece – the ball falling to Andy Kirk, who calmly slotted the ball away from Ross Laidlaw in the visitors’ goal and into the back of the net. This time Kirk made no mistake – unlike the last meeting between the sides when he somehow managed to miss an open goal standing virtually on the goal-line.
The visiting Rovers support were incensed at the decision to allow the goal to stand, with some suggestions that Kirk was comfortably offside when he scored. Refereeing decisions not going the way of The Rovers seems to be becoming an unwanted theme at the moment, but be that as it may, the goal stood and Alloa led 1-0.
For large spells after the goal, Rovers continued to give possession away cheaply – a trait that would haunt them all afternoon, but to their credit, Rovers never gave up in their ultimately fruitless search for that elusive equaliser.
Jason Thomson created a couple of half chances late on, before Kevin Moon tried his luck with a dipping shot from around 30 yards out. The fact that the subsequent corner was wasted summed up both the Rovers’ afternoon and the game in general.
The game always had the feel that a single goal would separate the two teams in a largely uninspiring afternoon. On this occasion, it was Alloa who got it – whether it was deserved and/or legitimate though is another matter. Rovers never really got going, and didn’t produce anything like the form which has seen manager Grant Murray win back-to-back SPFL Championship Manager of the Month awards.
At least there’s always next week when Queen of the South are the visitors to Stark’s Park. Rovers could do with getting back to winning ways next weekend before the league takes a back seat for a week due to the Scottish Cup tie against our old friends from across the Tay Bridge at Dens.
Report by Martin Hart, Pictures Eddie Doig
Copyright Eddie Doig